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Interview With Senator Lindsey Graham; 'Strategy Session'; Billionaire Pact

Aired August 5, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR : Thanks very much, Rick. Happening now, a new report just out names one of al Qaeda's most active affiliates worldwide. Now the Justice Department is charging 14 people here in the United States, including several U.S. citizens, with alleged ties to that terrorist network.

Also breaking news we're following right now, The National Incident Commander Thad Allen says the country is approaching, and I'm quoting him now, a "significant milestone in the Gulf Oil Disaster." BP has just announced its completed critical cementing on the crippled well in the Gulf of Mexico, and it could soon be permanently sealed.

And they're some of the richest people in the world, so why are these billionaires and others now pledging to give away half their fortunes? I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

A fiery president Obama comes out of the gates swinging, calling into question the patriotism of his republican critics here in Washington. At his third trip to an auto plant in less than a week, the president praised Ford workers in Chicago for managing to survive the industry's near collapse.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: And to all those naysayers in Washington, what we call the "just say no crowd," who said that investing in you would guarantee failure, who said we should just walk away from this industry, who said that standing by America's automakers was, quote, the worst investment you could make, who tried to block us at every turn, I wish they were standing here today and saw what I see. I wish they could see the pride you take in building these great cars, American-made cars, and my message to them is don't bet against the American worker. Don't lose faith in the American people. Don't lose faith in American industry. We are coming back.


BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in our Kate Bolduan. She's working the story from the White House for us today. It sounded as if the president got pretty close to suggesting that these republican critics were not necessarily pro-America.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well, Wolf, he's definitely trying to paint a picture here, one that by not being supportive of the president's policies, like the auto bailout, the president's critics then are not being supportive of the American people, of the American worker since the president argues that those very same policies are working, that they are helping the economy, that they are helping save jobs.

Essentially, the president is actually trying to remind the American people, voters, of the recession, of deficits and trying to put that squarely in republican laps. In recent weeks the president, especially in this last week you would say, he's really stepped up the campaign-style rhetoric, even targeting now his predecessor directly. Listen here.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: They haven't come out with a single solitary idea that is different from the policies that held sway for eight years before democrats took over. Not a single policy difference that's discernible from George W. Bush, not one. So what they are really betting on is amnesia. They are betting that you just forgot about the eight years that they were in charge of Washington. They are betting that you didn't notice that the recession started under their watch.


BOLDUAN: President Obama has often alluded to the fact that the problems his administration has faced were inherited from the Bush Administration, but what you're starting to see here is a reframing of sorts in the president's message ahead of the mid-term elections.

Just today you see on the same day he's touting the leadership that he has had in making tough decisions, often unpopular decisions, to help the economy, to help the American people, he's also hammering republicans and even the former president for essentially being the party of nothing new, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's pretty unusual for him to name the former president directly in this criticism. Usually it's implied, but to specifically name George W. Bush, that's significant. Let's dig deeper.

BOLDUAN: Comments are getting sharp.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst is here. What's the strategy that we're beginning to see unfold at the White House?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You'll be shocked to hear this, Wolf, but they have actually been looking at polls, and they are discovering what works for them is a choice election, not a referendum on Barack Obama but making it a choice. But what they also find when they poll people is that they ask people, okay, would you accept and vote for this republican who promotes republican economic policies? A generic republican? People say sure, I'll vote for that republican. But if you ask if you would vote for a republican who supports George W. Bush's economic policies, the voters overwhelmingly say no. So that is why they are invoking George W. Bush's name again. They know there's a risk here because people say the statute of limitations on that has expired, it's your economy now. But they know that voters, when they hear George W. Bush's economic policies, there's a real negative reaction.

BLITZER: Isn't there normally a little protocol that a sitting president does not necessarily hammer his immediate predecessor, that other aides do that, of course, but that is sort of above or below what the president should be doing?

BORGER: There may be, but it certainly worked for Barack Obama in 2008 pretty well.

BLITZER: He wasn't a sitting president then.

BORGER: Right, but using George W. Bush worked, and if it's going to help the democrats keep control of the House, I think they are willing to do it, and we see it today.

BLITZER: He's in Chicago, his home state.

BORGER: He is.

BLITZER of Illinois right now. There's a tough race going on there, and he's trying to help the democrat.

BORGER: Wolf, it's been a real saga there in Chicago, not surprising Chicago politics. But we have some illustrations here just about how difficult it's been. Remember, December 2008, right after Barack Obama gets elected, Governor Blagojevich decides to appoint Roland Burris, but Blagojevich, of course, is first indicted for trying to sell that Senate seat.

Now, the president wanted this woman, Lisa Madigan to run for that Senate seat. She is the attorney general of the state of Illinois. In early July 2009, she said, you know what? I'm just not going to do it.

And then in February 2010, this man, Alexei Giannoulias got the democratic nomination, not Barack Obama's first choice, but a young, good candidate, but whoops, in April, his family bank is taken over by the Feds after loans went bad.

So then today you have Barack Obama out there in Chicago campaigning for Giannoulias, and, of course, we're still waiting for the verdict on Blagojevich.

BLITZER: The jury is still deliberating.

BORGER: The jury is still out, as they say. And, you know, so this is a Senate seat that obviously the democrats want to win, and there's something the republicans are calling the trifecta here, Wolf, because they would like to win Joe Biden's Senate seat, Harry Reid's Senate seat and, of course, Barack Obama's Senate seat -- the three top democrat office holders. BLITZER: And they already won Ted Kennedy's Senate seat.

BORGER: Yes, not counting that.

BLITZER: So that would be even more than a trifecta.

BORGER: You bet.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Let's get to some breaking news we're following. BP has just announced its completed critical cementing on the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico. The development could mean that the well will soon be permanently sealed. Meanwhile, federal officials say there's a negligible amount of oil left in the Gulf.

CNN's Ed Lavandera went out to see for himself. Ed is joining us now. Ed, what did you find out?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we launched today from Venice, Louisiana, which is southeast of New Orleans, and we visited some of the hardest hit areas that we've seen over the last few months by this oil spill.

In all we traveled about 65 miles today, and went to what is considered to be the hardest hit spot in Louisiana, a little area called Passaloutra, Louisiana which is a barrier island, a little marshland about 17 to 20 miles southeast of where we are in Venice.

And when you talk to people around here, and that word that you heard repeatedly yesterday from the report from the federal government saying that the oil that is left is a negligible amount, that they consider about 25 percent of it existing in various different forms in the Gulf of Mexico, but you crunch the numbers on that, and you're still looking at more than a million barrels of oil that's still unaccounted for.

And many people around here still think that that creates a lot of work that still is left to be done, and we saw that firsthand today.


LAVANDERA: We're in an area known as Passaloutra, Louisiana. This is pretty much the southernmost point right out here as the Gulf of Mexico. This was an area that was hit incredibly hard by the oil spill. Crews are in here in the marsh grass laying down these absorbent pads, flipping them over, it collects the sheen on the top of the water and people around here are telling us in the last months, they've really seen a dramatic change in the amount of oil around here.

When you hear this described as a negligible amount of oil on the surface based on what we've seen today, do you think that's an accurate statement?

MAURA WOOD, NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION: When we look out here in the marsh and we see these canes that remain coated with oil, we see the soil that's on the bottom of the marsh that is coated with oil, and we know that between this oil and the oil that's out in the Gulf there's as much as ten times as what was released from the Exxon- Valdez. So, no, I don't consider this is negligible, and I don't think we can declare this disaster over.

JEREMY INGRAM, U.S. COAST GUARD: When I first came here 60 days ago, you couldn't see water. It was all oil. I'd say it's a lot less than what it was here, but if you see on the canes it's still heavily saturated and wet with oil. So the job's not done yet, and there's a lot more work to get done. As the tides go up and come down more oil is going to come off these canes and somebody and something has to be here to catch it.


LAVANDERA: Wolf, it was actually very different. I was speaking with various colleagues who have been out here in these waters in various different times over the last few months. Things have clearly changed.

In fact, one of the interesting things we saw today was a long stretch of green algae which we're told that a lot of small sea creatures use to feed off of it, but mixed in with that green algae was a lot of kind of brown foam mixed in with that green algae, and some of the people believe that that was part of that oil and oil that had been used and broken up with dispersant.

Remember early on it was an orangish color but they believed perhaps that's changing into this brownie, foamy kind of mixture. So a really interesting thing, and no clear cut answers as to what exactly is going to happen here in the future.

Many people believe that we just don't know the long-term impact of what we've seen in this oil disaster and what's left over of the oil and how that's going to affect marine life over the time to come.

In fact, the one official from the National Wildlife Federation that we were out with today described it as a mystery. Wolf?

BLITZER: It's going to go on for a long time, this mystery, and I'm sure we're going to be learning a lot more in the years to come. Ed Lavandera, thanks very much. This spill, has, of course, taken a very serious toll on wildlife in the Gulf region.

The federal government now estimates almost 500 sea turtles, more than 1,700 birds have been recovered alive, but another 508 sea turtles and more than 3,600 birds have been found dead, and that's only what's been collected so far. The actual numbers, of course, are certainly a lot, a lot higher.

The solicitor general of the United States, Elena Kagan, has now been confirmed as the 112th United States Supreme Court Justice. Just moments ago the senate voted overwhelmingly in her favor. We're told she was actually watching the vote from a television in her office over at The Justice Department. Kagan is expected to be officially sworn in on Saturday. President Obama is just making some remarks addressing how happy he is that she has been confirmed. We're going to get those remarks for you. We'll play them for you once they come in. Stand by for that. The final vote, 63-37 in terms of her confirmation.

The justice department is charging 14 people with terrorist activity linked to an al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia known as al Shabaab. The attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, says indictments and arrests took place in Minnesota, Alabama and California. Charges of the four unsealed indictments include violations for providing money, personnel and services to the terrorist network.

We're going to have a full report from Jeanne Meserve coming up later here in "THE SITUATION ROOM" a very disturbing development.

Social Security reaches the final financial tipping point. The system is now paying out more than it's taking in. Will Washington do anything anytime soon to fix this problem? I'll speak about that and more with David Gergen. He's standing by live. And Sarah Palin slamming President Obama as inexperienced. It's an allegation that she's familiar with, defending herself against her lack of experience on many issues. We'll talk about that in our strategy session. Stay with us. You're in "THE SITUATION ROOM."


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here and he has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: President Obama promised us all the most transparent administration in history, but there are growing signs that it is business as usual in Washington, D.C. reports that four times in the last week the president has quietly slipped away to attend private exclusive democratic party fundraisers, all closed to the press.

These events are for the fat cats, big donors. They pay as much as $30,000 to have lunch with the president. They are held at fancy hotels or at the homes of some of the wealthy supporters.

The White House says that the president had nothing formal to say at these small fundraisers, so there was no need to have reporters present. They say if the rule is if the president makes a speech or formal remarks, then the event is tone to the press.

But the president's clearly talking to donors at these events, right? One democratic source told Politico that at such a fundraiser, the president will give a brief address to the group and then spend up to an hour speaking one-on-one or in small groups with supporters.

Critics say this is an example of the president backtracking on his campaign promise for openness and journalists who have tried to gain access to these events, not a chance. You may recall it was at a private fundraiser in San Francisco that then-candidate Obama was overheard telling donors that working class people hurt by the economy, quote, "get bitter and cling to guns or religion," unquote. Well, after that firestorm Obama's campaign said it would allow more press into similar events, but at least four times in the last week that apparently has not been the case.

Here's the question -- President Obama promised us the most transparent presidency in history. Is he keeping his word? Go to and post a comment on my blog

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, because when I covered the White House during the Clinton administration, at one point they didn't want reporters in during some of those fundraisers. But in the end, they agreed that there would always be at least a print reporter. Even if there were no TV cameras in, there would be pool reports. So this is a little bit unusual.

CAFFERTY: Yes, it is. It doesn't rise to the level of the secret energy meetings that Cheney had with the oil companies, but still, that San Francisco thing was a lesson learned and not forgotten by the press and, you know, they want to have a foot in the door. I guess that's their job and government's job is to keep their big noses out of their business if they can.

BLITZER: Key words, if they can.


BLITZER: Let's hope they can't.


BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you.

A new report shows that Social Security is now paying out more in benefits than it's taking in through payroll taxes. Let's talk about what this means with our senior political analyst David Gergen.

David, the democrats, they're are in charge of Congress, the president of the United States. We're getting disturbing numbers now once again on Social Security. We seem to be getting these every few years and people sort of just kick this can down the road. That's not too smart, is it?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, Wolf, because our debts are piling up, and the government is more and more in debt, and it's -- it's going to seriously threaten the future of the country unless we deal with it.

Now what's happened, Wolf, here on Social Security and Medicare, there have been two reports that have come out that appear to say to the public, look, the solvency of these programs is in good shape for many years to come -- 20 years in the case of Social Security, another 30 years in the case of Medicare -- I'm sorry the other way around, 20, 30 years for the two of them. And the deficit hawks -- and I must tell you I'm one -- believe that, look, they are solvent but the only way they are solvent is doing what we're doing this year on Social Security, and that is the government is going to have to put more and more money into it because the payroll taxes are not going to be enough to cover. And therefore, the cost to government will go way up and the size of the national debt is going to continue to go up.

But this is all leading to a big fight, Wolf, about what we're going to do about Social Security and Medicare.

BLITZER: Because usually what they do is they kick it down the road by having a presidential commission study it for a year or two and come up with some recommendations. Sometimes they accept some of those recommendations, but very often people forget about those recommendations pretty quickly.

Government doesn't always seem capable of dealing with these long-term problems.

GERGEN: We're much more soft dealing with chronic problems than we are with national emergencies. We're pretty good -- from the Great Depression to the Great Recession, we were good at respond together emergency aspect of that, from Pearl Harbor to 9/11, but the chronic conditions we have more problems.

Now in this case, Wolf, I think the budget deficits are so serious that this new presidential commission on the deficits that's co-chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, democrat and republican, is being taken more seriously in Washington, and they will propose changes in Social Security. We don't know what yet, but it's very likely they will propose a somewhat higher taxes for Social Security, somewhat higher retirement age and a somewhat small reduction in benefit costs.

The liberals have seized on this new report about Social Security and Medicare, these reports, and said we don't need to touch these, they're solvent. Go away, don't do this.

But the deficit hawks are saying, wait a minute. If you don't deal with these Medicare and Social Security, if you don't reform them, the deficit is going to go higher and higher. The national debt is going to reach proportions we can't stand, and it's going to bring all sorts of problems to the country.

BLITZER: And you know these two men, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, I know them well. And when their report comes out in December they will have tough medicine for the American people to consider.

GERGEN: They will and we're going to have some big fights. I think, if anything, I hope that during the time before the hearing in December, we at CNN and others can really help people understand what the choices are facing the country because they are tough choices, very hard choices, and a lot of Americans are going to be startled by just how serious some of this is. BLITZER: Yes, you're right. All right, David, thank you.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Every parent's fear, when you send your kids off to school on a school bus in the morning, something, god forbid, terrible could happen. Look at this. We're going to have an update on a horrifying crash in Missouri today.

And the Pentagon asked WikiLeaks to, quote, "do the right thing." So what does that mean? We're going to give you the details.


BLITZER: The president reacting to the confirmation of Elena Kagan.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- Elena Kagan as our nation's 112th Supreme Court Justice. And I want to thank the Senate Judiciary Committee, particularly its Chairman, Senator Leahy, for giving her a full, fair and timely hearing.

Over the past two months, the committee has scrutinized Elena's record as a scholar, as a law school dean, as a presidential advisor, and as Solicitor General. And after 17 hours of testimony during which she answered more than 540 questions, I'd say they got a pretty good look at Elena Kagan. They've gotten a good sense of her formidable intelligence, her rich understanding of our Constitution, her commitment to the rule of law, and her excellent -- and occasionally irreverent -- sense of humor. And they have come to understand why, throughout her career, she has earned the respect and admiration of folks from across the political spectrum -- an achievement reflected in today's bipartisan vote.

But today's vote wasn't just an affirmation of Elena's intellect and accomplishments. It was also an affirmation of her character and her temperament; her open-mindedness and even-handedness; her determination to hear all sides of every story and consider all possible arguments. Because Elena understands that the law isn't just an abstraction or an intellectual exercise. She knows that the Supreme Court's decisions shape not just the character of our democracy, but the circumstances of our daily lives -- or, as she once put it, that "behind the law there are stories -- stories of people's lives as shaped by the law, stories of people's lives as might be changed by law."

So I am confident that Elena Kagan will make an outstanding Supreme Court Justice. And I am proud, also, of the history we're making with her appointment. For nearly two centuries, there wasn't a single woman on our nation's highest court. When Elena takes her seat on that bench, for the first time in our history, there will be three women.

It is, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently stated, "one of the most exhilarating developments" -- a sign of progress that I relish not just as a father who wants limitless possibilities for my two daughters, but as an American proud that our Supreme Court will be more inclusive, more representative, and more reflective of us as a people than ever before.

Thanks very much, everybody.

BLITZER: The president of the United States welcoming the Senate confirmation of Elena Kagan to be the 112th United States Supreme Court justice. The final vote, 63 in favor, 37 against. Five republicans voted to confirm; one democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, opposed her confirmation.

The second member of the United States Supreme Court, the second justice that was nominated by President Obama and now the Supreme Court will go forward. Historic moment today here in Washington.

Elsewhere in Washington, as the debate over immigration rages on, a growing number of republican lawmakers are now calling for a review of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. That amendment reads, and let me quote, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside."

That provision has the effect of granting citizenship to anyone born in the United States, even if their parents are here illegally.

And joining us now, republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, he's a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Senator, thanks for coming in.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Glad to be with you. Thank you.

BLITZER: A lot of us were surprised. All of a sudden the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which has been in business for a long, long time, you want to reexamine that amendment, why?

GRAHAM: Well, I think it served us well, but immigration reform is a hot topic. It's dividing the country. The country is really emotionally torn over this, and I've been one of the republicans trying to find a comprehensive solution, and I think momentum is building to come up with a new immigration system that really does work and is fair and humane and welcomes legal immigrants.

But one of the issues that is often talked about but never really seriously discussed is the practice of allowing people to come here legally and have a child and the child automatically given American citizenship. I think we need to look at that in the future as to whether or not we want to change that because I think it's an incentive to break the law in the future, and I don't want the third wave of illegal immigrants coming 20 years from now so I want to put it on the table as part of a comprehensive review of our immigration laws. And secondly, I found out that people in China and throughout the world who are rich get a tourist visa to come to an American resort, have the child at that resort, there's a hospital on the resort grounds, have the baby as an American citizen and turn around and go back to China and that to me cheapens --

BLITZER: How many cases -- that sounds like a pretty extreme case.

GRAHAM: Well, they say there's 7,000, but I don't think that's the way you want to give out citizenship. Citizenship should be earned, it should be respected, and that's what I'm trying to do in the future

BLITZER: I was going to say, for 150 years or so, since the 14th amendment, if you were born in the USA, you're an American citizen. It's been going on like that for a long time, and you were one of those who wanted comprehensive immigration reform --

GRAHAM: I still do.

BLITZER: -- with Senator McCain, Senator Kennedy.

GRAHAM: Right.

BLITZER: Then President Bush.

You never raised this issue then, so I guess the question is why now?

GRAHAM: Well, because what I'm hearing when I go back home and throughout the country is, "Can you assure me we won't have a third wave of illegal immigrants?" And the one thing I can tell you about our immigration laws, that if in the future you're rewarded for breaking the law, and you come across the border just specifically to have a child in America, it's going to entice this perverse incentive for continued illegal immigration. Very few countries do this.

What I want to do is have a system in the future that welcomes people, gives them a path to becoming a citizen, and just ask them to stay on the path. And the question for the country --

BLITZER: Let me interrupt for a second, Senator. So you want to amend the 14th Amendment, or just have a reinterpretation of the 14th Amendment? If you want an amendment to the Constitution, that could take years.

GRAHAM: Well, it could, but maybe there's a way you can do it by state.

Here's what I want to do. I want people to come to my country, feel welcomed to come. I want to welcome legal immigrants in the future. We need new people.

I just don't want people to continue to break the law and be rewarded when they do. And quite frankly, I don't want to sell American citizenship to rich people throughout the world who can come here at a resort, have a baby, turn around and leave, because a lot of people with green cards are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't want the third wave of illegal immigration.

As to the 12 million, I'm willing to put them on a pathway to citizenship. I don't want to strip anyone's citizenship who is already here. But when we come up with a new system that will break this chain of endless illegal immigration, we need to look at everything, including the incentive to come here illegally to have a child

BLITZER: So I just want to be precise. As far as the 12 million or so illegal immigrants in the country right now, you still want you call a pathway for citizenship for millions of them and what the critics call amnesty?

GRAHAM: Yes. See, what is amnesty? If it's just giving away American citizenship without having to earn it, that would be amnesty.

What I'm saying to the 12 million, practically we're not going to put them in jail and we're not going to deport them all. All of us look the other way. They came here to work and we kind of let it build up.

I'm saying to the 12 million, I will allow you to stay here legally. You have to have a job, learn our language, and pay a fine for the crime you committed. And if you want to be a citizen, get in the back of the legal line and work your way up. I'm willing to do that.

And to the children of the illegal immigrants who are already here, you will be an American citizen. But what I'm trying to say in the future, once we clean this mess up, I don't want to have laws in place that will lead to 12 million 20 years from now, and if you don't change the law in this area, you're going to entice people to continue to break the law.

BLITZER: You're being criticized -- hammered, I should say -- by some Republicans in your home state of South Carolina. The Greenville Republican Party, for example, issued a censure of you this week, saying "The Greenville County Republican Party hereby issues this formal rebuke of Senator Graham for his cooperation and support of President Obama and the Democrat Party's liberal agenda for the United States."

Three counties out of what, 46 counties in South Carolina have passed these resolutions against you?

GRAHAM: Well, all I can tell you, the guy that authored it was the campaign chairman of the opponent I beat in the primary. I think it's pretty clear from my record that I am a conservative, by any reasonable definition -- a lifetime ACU, American Conservative Union, rating of 90.

I vote with the Republican leadership 92 percent of the time I voted against the stimulus and the health care bill. But I don't mind helping President Obama when it comes to the war.

I voted for Justice Kagan and Sotomayor because I thought they were qualified. And as a United States senator, I think elections matter.

I've worked on immigration. I've been in the Gang of 14. So I really do believe in trying to find common ground on solutions to hard problems. And there's people on the right and the left who believe it's a sin to help the other side at all.

I think most Americans appreciate us working together. And it's OK to be liberal and conservative, as long as you can solve the nation's problems.

Liberals and conservatives need to fix immigration. The open border crowd who believes anybody can come to America on any terms they desire, I think is wrong. And to the people on the right who believe that you can make 12 million people go away, deport them, or put them in jail, I don't think that's the right answer.

I think the middle ground is to fix this mess, but make sure you don't have a future mess on your hands by changing your laws in a rational way.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, thanks very much for coming in.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BLITZER: The international supermodel Naomi Campbell called in to testify in a war crimes trial of a former Liberian leader. We're going to tell you what's going on.

Plus, horror right now in Missouri. At least two people are dead after school buses headed for an amusement park collide with an SUV.

We'll have an update. That's coming up.



BLITZER: The GOP heavyweight Sarah Palin taking the gloves off. Why she's saying President Obama is in way over his head, wasn't properly vetted, and doesn't have enough experience.

Our "Strategy Session" coming up.

Plus, they're some of the world's richest people, so why are billionaires like Bill and Melinda Gates now pledging to give away half of all of their money, and a lot of other billionaires are making the same pledge?


BLITZER: Let's get to our "Strategy Session" right now. Joining us, our Democratic strategist, CNN political contributor Paul Begala, and the Republican strategist, former spokesman for Newt Gingrich, Tony Blankley. He's the vice president with Edelman PR right here in Washington.

Twenty-four hours ago exactly, we were doing the breaking news out of California, Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, overturned by a U.S. district court judge.

What's going to be the political fallout from this immediately in November, if any?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Immediately, I think less than maybe some others suspect, because it's usually the losing side on this that gets more energized politically. That would be the conservative anti-gay marriage crowd.

They are already pretty engaged. OK? Conservatives have all the energy already in this election, so I don't know that the incremental boost to them is all that great. This is an economically-focused election, and I think Democrats ought to focus on the economy and jobs. So I don't see this as an enormous electoral issue.

BLITZER: Do you see it having an impact?

TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Potentially. I tend to agree with Paul that our side is already motivated, but I think this is an opportunity for the president. It's a difficult hand to play, but if I were advising him, and putting sort of ethics aside, I would switch his position and say I'm for same-sex marriage.

When he was running for president, he was looking for 50 percent, plus. A majority of the country is against that, so it made sense. Now he's holding on to 40-something percent, and the people who disagree with him are already gone. So he ought to try to energize his 35 percent to 40 percent of the base that real cares about this issue and take the consequences of flip-flopping, because politicians invariably flip-flop.

BEGALA: It's a tough issue for a lot of Democrats, including the president. He supports the Defense of Marriage Act, which doesn't allow marriage between two men or two women. He hasn't gone that far to support same-sex marriage, but a lot of Democrats and a lot of that liberal base, of course, are passionately in favor of it.

BLANKLEY: The so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which I don't like and I don't support. President Clinton signed it into law, by the way, my old boss. It requires states to recognize other states. Rather, it says states do not have to fulfill the full faith and credit obligation of the Constitution.

BLITZER: Because marriage is between a man and a woman.

BEGALA: And if another state has a different definition, then you don't have to recognize it. In other words, so a gay marriage in Massachusetts doesn't have to be recognized in Montana. But I think Tony's advice is actually on to something. This president --

BLITZER: It would energize Democrats, you think?

BEGALA: Barack Obama has been very cautious, hesitant, and timid on gay rights, and I think that's the wrong posture morally, but also I think it's the wrong posture politically.

BLANKLEY: I mean, obviously I disagree substantively, but it also deals with an intellectual problem he has. He says he is for equality between gay and straights, regarding marriage. He says he thinks that Proposition 8 is divisive and wrong, and yet he says that he's not for same-sex marriage, and so it's totally inconsistent.

I don't know what his personal thoughts are. One might suspect that he thinks it ought to be legal. And it just seems to me it's a chance for him to get his intellectual argument in line and to play with his bases.

BLITZER: All right. Let me quote Sarah Palin now, because she's now saying President Obama is way over his head as president of the United States.

She told Fox News, "I think he's quite complacent. I think he's in over his head. And I think he has poor advisers around him. And I think he's really in a flux kind of when it comes to what is his governing philosophy actually is. Some of this though is a result of he not having much experience, and then a complicit media, and maybe some voters who choose not to allow him to be vetted very closely."

Bottom line, she doesn't think he has enough experience to be president of the United States

BEGALA: I think we should listen to Sarah Palin. If anybody is an expert on being unqualified, in over her head, and not vetted, it's Sarah Palin. So maybe she knows of what she speaks.

I will point out that the fifth word in that quote, "complacent," you can say a lot of things about Barack Obama, he is not complacent. In fact, frankly, the sharper critique from the right, the smarter critique from the right, has been he's trying to do too much, too fast, and spend too much, too fast. So, complacent -- now, to give her the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure she has no idea what that means. Maybe somebody wrote it on her hand or something.

BLANKLEY: Now, now.

BEGALA: No, but the man's not complacent. I mean, you've got to be pretty silly to call him complacent.

BLANKLEY: I think it's pretty obvious that she's having a little bit of fun. She was charged with being unprepared. And as the president's number slip, she's returning in kind.

Now, I think that obviously, substantively, on his policy, he's been a tremendous success. I disagree profoundly with his policies, but he has gotten more done substantively than any president since Lyndon Johnson in the first two years. So he understands procedurally how to get the job done.

Now, his numbers are slipping badly, and politically he's losing his base. So whether he's experienced enough to get himself re- elected is another matter. But she's -- he's handling his objective of getting his stuff in pretty well.

BLITZER: Tomorrow morning the new jobs numbers come out, the unemployment numbers, the jobs created numbers for the month of July.

We'll be all over that tomorrow, guys. Thanks very much.

Jobs, jobs, jobs. I believe you said that's issue number one.

BEGALA: And we ought not be complacent about jobs, nor should we -- we shouldn't refudiate (ph) the jobs -- this is another Palinism the other day. She coined that.

BLITZER: There will be more.


BLITZER: Some of the richest people in the world have been meeting secretly, working on a conspiracy to make themselves, shall we say, less rich. We'll explain what's going on.

And illegal immigrants who want to leave the United States of America. It should be easy, but guess what? It is not necessarily easy or cheap.

We're going to tell you about one Mexican family that says they want to go home, but they can't afford it.



BLITZER: Let's go to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: President Obama promised the most transparency presidency in his history. Is he keeping his word?

Craig in Florida, "Obama's promise for transparency ought to go into the same trash bin as Pelosi's promise for the most ethical Congress in history. Both were made to capture votes, both were abandoned the first time it becomes necessary to expedite a political goal."

(INAUDIBLE) writes, "A man born out of Chicago-style politics not being transparent? Why does that shock anyone? Obama doesn't need to be transparent. The press gives him a free pass. Anybody who challenges him gets hit with the racist card."

Tony in New York, "The kind of transparency that counts regarding policy decisions, in that regard, he has been far more transparent than any of his predecessors. There's a big difference between pressing the flesh at a private event to raise campaign funds and calling in oil companies in secret to set energy policy the way Dick Cheney did."

Ramsey (ph) writes, "As an Obama supporter, I'm disappointed there is still secrecy involved in fund-raising. This is exactly what voters want up front. Many Americans want to know and should know who owns the president, who owns the Congress and the Senate. If we're going to have an oligarchy, let us at least know what corporations own the government. I think it's a small favor to ask."

Dan in Virginia, "He wins the argument on semantics. What everybody wants is a transparent administration. What everybody got is another secretive one, albeit more transparent than the previous 42."

And Louis (ph) in Indiana writes, "I believe he is, Jack. Come on now. No president ever completely transparent. It's not in the nature of the job. The fact of the matter is, when we chose Obama, we chose a very different presidential philosophy. He's shown us a very different way of addressing the position Washington in general, and we could say 'Mission Accomplished.'"

If you want read more on this, you'll find it on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch and go there.

Thank you, Jack.

The Justice Department now charging Americans with ties to anal Qaeda affiliate in Somalia. Our Jeanne Meserve is standing by with the latest.


BLITZER: They are some of the richest people in the world, billionaires, all of them, and now they are all taking a very, very unique pledge.

Lisa Sylvester has been looking into this story for us.

Tell our viewers, Lisa, what's going on.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, something to keep in mind, this isn't a legal contract. It is a public declaration, and as they put it, a moral commitment and agreement to leave at least half of the net worth to charity either when they are alive or upon their death.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, guys. Keep moving.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): They are all billionaires, many of them household names: Buffett, Gates, Rockefeller, Bloomberg. And they have taken a public pledge to give at least 50 percent of their wealth to charity. It began with Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates. All three have already committed vast sums of their wealth to causes such as global health and education. But they wanted to expand on the idea.

Three secret dinners brought the mega-rich together to discuss ways of getting their dollars to change the world. The Gates and Warren Buffett discussed the Giving Pledge recently on the PBS "Charlie Rose Show."

MELINDA GATES, PHILANTHROPIST: And I think one of the cool things we learned in the dinner is that, you know, we know that philanthropy is very personal. And so, to us, it doesn't matter what people give, whether it's to the culture, or to climate, or to humanity, or to societal issues. It's what they are driven by that gets them to give, and we just want to make sure that they are thinking about giving. And there's a lot of energy around that.

SYLVESTER: Now 40 families and individuals have signed up, including the man behind "Star Wars," George Lucas; venture capitalist George Soros; and CNN founder Ted Turner.

Many on the list have given away a lot of their wealth, including Turner, who recently discussed the $1 billion gift to the United Nations with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

TED TURNER, FOUNDER, CNN: There's more international understanding than ever before. The United Nations is making a real good contribution. Like everything else, it's no better than the people that run it.

BLITZER: So you're happy with that donation?

TURNER: Oh yes.

SYLVESTER: Princeton University professor Peter Singer says even if these multi-billionaires give away half of their wealth, that still leaves them with a lot and more to go around.

PETER SINGER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: If all of the billionaires on the Forbes 400 list were to give half of the wealth, that's $600 billion that's going to go to charity and philanthropic causes. You know, that's a fantastic amount. I mean, if that were to go to help the world's poor, for example, it could really make a huge difference.


SYLVESTER: Now, the Giving Pledge isn't meant for just the mega- rich, but to inspire others, even those without deep pockets, to give what they can -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.